A suffix is a letter or group of letters affixed to the end of a word to create a different word. Some suffixes are single letters; for example, in the word floors, -s is a suffix indicating that the noun, floor, is plural. Others are multiple letters; for instance, in the word brightest, the suffix -est makes the adjective, bright, superlative.
There are many ways to categorize suffixes, but the most common makes a distinction between inflectional suffixes and derivational suffixes. An inflectional suffix adds information to the root word without altering the root’s linguistic function.
For example, the -er in the adjective looser is inflectional because loose and looser are both adjectives that function more or less the same. The suffix -hood, in contrast, is derivational because it combines with its stem to create a new word—for example, the noun likelihood from the adjective likely.
Most suffixes can be attached to their stems without a hyphen. For example, while spell-check might catch words like documentable, youthism, kittenesque, and buildingless, these are perfectly good words with easily understood meanings (especially in context).
Why Use Suffixes?
Suffixes expand vocabulary and bring detailed meaning to sentence structure. They allow for new ways to express thoughts and opinions and simplify sentences to emphasize main points. They also work to transform nouns into verbs and explain the conditions, actions, tenses, and capabilities of certain words.
Common Suffixes Examples
These common examples provide a list of suffixes used in modern English. The addition of a suffix to a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb will often alter the spelling of the root word. Usually, words that end in “e” replace “e” with the suffix.
Common Noun Suffixes
Adding suffixes to a noun can change it to a verb or change its function in a sentence entirely. Many common noun suffixes are used to show the performing of an action or activity being engaged in. For example, adding -eer to the word auction changes it to auctioneer – or a person engaged in an auction.
|-age||action, state, or process of||marriage, postage, package, baggage, passage|
|-al||Condition, state, or quality of||arrival, dismissal, proposal, refusal, rebuttal, denial, refusal|
|-ance, -ence||action, state, condition, or quality of||acceptance, assurance, maintenance, attendance, reference, insurance, existence|
|-ation, -tion||an action or resulting state of being||declaration, transition, celebration, abbreviation, information, education, elimination|
|-eer||engaged in something, associated with something||volunteer, engineer, auctioneer, mountaineer, profiteer|
|-er||someone who performs an action||teacher, dancer, helper, farmer, trainer, jeweler, villager|
|-ery||a business or trade, a behavior, a condition||bakery, creamery, machinery, slavery, brewery|
|-hood||Terms associated with family||parenthood, fatherhood, motherhood, childhood|
|-ing||action, state, or process of||seeing, writing, ending, going, blessing, feeding|
|-ist||one who practices||chemist, columnist, cellist, bicyclist, scientist|
|-ity||the state or condition of||equality, inactivity, stupidity, curiosity, activity, mobility, reality|
|-ment||the action or result of||retirement, argument, establishment, punishment, abandonment|
|-ness||a state or quality||awareness, sadness, kindness, happiness, kindness, uselessness, truthfulness|
|-or||a person who is something||translator, narrator, director, distributor|
|-ship||position held||Fellowship, ownership, internship, partnership, membership, friendship|
|-sion, -xion||state or being||concession, division, complexion, tension, depression, confusion, impression|
|-th||state or quality of||strength, warmth, death, width, length, birth, growth|
|-ty||condition of||honesty, loyalty, cruelty, safety|
|-ure||action or the resulting state||departure, failure, pressure, legislature|
Common Verb Suffixes
Many verb suffixes are used to show the tense of the action. For example, adding -ed designates a past tense, while -ing works to describe something occurring in the present tense. Other additions help explain an action or process.
|-ate||to make||decorate, eradicate, captivate, cooperate, allocate, concentrate, regulate|
|-ed||past-tense version of a verb||climbed, jogged, walked, laughed|
|-en||to become||soften, flatten, sweeten, shorten, lengthen, brighten, darken|
|-er||action or process, making an adjective comparative||faster, longer, quicker, bigger|
|-ify, -fy||to make or to produce||classify, clarify, terrify, identify, simplify, defy, satisfy|
|-ing||verb form/present participle of an action||driving, skating, running, becoming, listening|
|-ize, -ise||to cause or to become||authorize, apologize, socialize, civilize, stabilize, characterize, advertise|
Common Adjective Suffixes
Since an adjective is used to help describe and detail an existing noun, the addition of suffixes adds detail and designates action. For example, adding -able to a word refers to things that are capable of being. You wouldn’t write, “the man whom people could predict”. Instead, you would write, “the predictable man”.
|-able, -ible||capable of being||presentable, adaptable, predictable, edible, credible|
|-al||pertaining to||grammatical, natural, accidental, regional, brutal, personal, universal|
|-ant||inclined to or tending to||reliant, defiant, vigilant, brilliant|
|-ary||of or relating to||military, complimentary, honorary, cautionary, momentary|
|-esque||reminiscent of||picturesque, statuesque|
|-ful||full of or notable of||resentful, wonderful, fanciful, beautiful, successful, grateful|
|-ic||relating to||domestic, heroic, poetic, athletic, scientific, historic, photographic|
|-ical||having the nature of||practical, mythical, logical, magical, historical|
|-ious, -ous||having qualities of||studious, nutritious, cautious, humorous, fabulous, dangerous, mysterious, nervous,|
|-ish||Origin or nature of||sheepish, snobbish, foolish, childish, selfish|
|-ive||quality or nature of||expensive, pensive, creative, divisive|
|-less||without something||endless, ageless, faultless, fearless, restless|
|-like||Like, or similar in nature to||childlike, warlike, lifelike,|
|-y||made up of or characterized by||tasty, dirty, sleazy, hasty, brainy, grouchy, rainy, funny|
Common Adverb Suffix
An adverb qualifies an adjective or verb, and the addition of a suffix provides further detail to how something is being done. For example, instead of saying “the girl was calm when she spoke”, you would say “the girl spoke calmly“. A suffix works to both simplify and provide information to the audience.
|-ly||in what manner something is being done||calmly, simply, honestly, really, easily|
|-ward||in a certain direction, or manner||backward, downwards, awkward, afterward|
|-wise||in relation to||clockwise, lengthwise, otherwise, crosswise|